News and Tribune

July 30, 2008

Parents of New Albany-Floyd County students to be notified of closings, emergencies

By TARA HETTINGER

Imagine a child, waking up late for school in the winter and rushing to get ready. She doesn’t have time to watch TV or listen to the radio.

She throws on some clothes, grabs her backpack and rushes out the door to wait at the bus stop. There she stands, waiting and waiting. No bus ever comes.

School was closed.

Although this is a hypothetical case, Dave Rarick, communications director for New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp., said he hears of issues like this each winter.

“Every year, we hear about kids going to school and not knowing school is delayed or closed until they get there and the doors are locked,” Rarick said.

He said this also poses a safety issue, even if the doors are open, since there may not be enough people around to supervise.

Now, with SchoolMessenger, all students and parents will be notified of changes, such as school closings, via phone.

“We don’t want it to be an annoying tool,” Rarick said. “We want it to be something that can be used in an emergency, such as if we need to call off school. This allows us to inform people.”

He said it can be used in other situations to make sure parents are informed. He used the example of last year when smoke was found in a classroom at Prosser School of Technology.

He said though no students were in harms way, not all parents knew that. Using this service, the corporation would be able to update parents on situations such as that. Rarick said this ensures parents receive quick and accurate information.

The school system can assign up to four phone numbers per student. Those numbers can be anything from cell phones to family friends. Rarick said it is important that all parents and guardians make sure that their information is up to date at their school.

The technology works this way: Someone within the corporation makes a call to the system and records a message. The system then makes calls to the stored numbers, such as to attendees of just one school or the entire corporation, and plays back that message.

The calls take about five to 15 minutes per attempt, according to Rarick. He said the system will make four attempts. He said at the very most, it can take an hour to reach every person in the system.

The program also is capable of sending e-mail alerts, which Rarick said the corporation is looking into using.

Rarick said the school system purchased SchoolMessenger using a grant. He said the corporation plans to keep applying for the grant every year to keep the program running. If the corporation is denied the funds, Rarick said the corporation will work to find a way to pay for it.

Rarick said participating in the program is voluntary. Parents can opt out by calling him.